4 Inspirational Words for 2016

As we close out 2015, our thoughts and dreams turn to 2016.  And as we take stock of the year and the year to come I am pleased to present four inspirational words from God’s Word that I pray will bring you strength, comfort and power for the 2016 journey ahead.

  1. Endurance

Man Jogging on Open Road --- Image by © Dave & Les Jacobs/Photoconcepts/Corbis

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”  Romans 15:5

As 100% God and 100% Man, Jesus got tired as he traveled, healed, preached, and dealt with the frailties, faults, and foolery of man.  However, Jesus showed us that when the weariness of the activities of life comes, we can turn to God for the renewal we need to press on.

John 4:1-26 tells the story of Jesus at Jacob’s well.  Weary from His journey Jesus stopped and, while resting, He encountered a Samaritan Woman whom He asked to draw water from the well for Him to drink.  The woman is startled by the request from Jesus who, as a Jew, is required by law not to associate with Samaritans.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

After further discussion Jesus gives the Samaritan woman and all of us the advice that will help when we get tired from the burdens of life.

“Everyone who drinks the water from this well will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Yes we will get tired and weary, however, when we are engaged in doing God’s work, He will give us the strength and endurance to finish the task.

  1. Ambition

A goldfish jumping out of the water to escape to freedom. White background.“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:25

God wants us to have ambition, however, He wants us to use our ambition in the context of advancing His kingdom here on earth.   We can advance God’s ambitions, and our own, when we remember the words of Matthew 6:33  Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

  1. Growth

Growth“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”    We can more closely follow the example of Christ when we commit to a life of spiritual growth and when we:  (1) Increase our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word by reading and studying His word. (2) Decrease our frequency and severity of sin, by living our lives according to His word (3) Increase our practice of Christ-like qualities found in His Word and (4) Increase our faith and trust in God with never-ending prayer.

 

For more read my post: Spiritual Growth: A Black Friday Gift For You

  1. Love

“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  1 John 4:20

Love is the basis of everything that God wants us to do and be.   As followers of Christ we are called on not only to love God but to love our fellow man as well.  And while loving God is easy, it is the loving of people with all of their faults, transgressions, and stupidity that is not.

Jesus in Matthew 5:43-48 (as translated in the Message bible) provides us with clear instructions on what God intends us to do as we follow the difficult task of loving our neighbors.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that law.  I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you; not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

God declares in Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you;  plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

While I titled this post Four Inspirational Words for 2016, God is not confined to only four words nor does the year matter.  God is active and ready right now for the execution of the plans that He has for us today and beyond.

Spiritual Growth: A Black Friday Gift For You

It’s Black Friday, the mother of all shopping days. Deals abound in stores, online and any place where commerce is being done.

However, before you go out to join the masses in the stores or leave this post for the cyber deals that awaits; I would like to present you with a gift from the Lord that could make your 2015 Black Friday truly special.

That gift is Spiritual Growth.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

Spiritual Growth is a deliberate effort to make our faith bigger, stronger, and mightier by simply following Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

We can more closely follow the example of Christ when we commit to a life of spiritual growth and when we do these four things:

  1. Increase our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word by reading and studying His word.

“Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman tested by trial who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:14-16 Amplified Bible

  1. Decrease our frequency and severity of sin, by living our lives according to His word.

“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”  Romans 7:25 New Living Translation

  1. Increase our practice of Christ-like qualities found in His Word.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 English Standard Version

  1. Increase our faith and trust in God with never ending prayer.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18   English Standard Version

Final Thoughts

On this Black Friday go ahead and search far and wide but you will find no better gift than the gift of Spiritual Growth.  For as Jesus commands us in Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

 

A Thankful Sinner

It’s Thanksgiving and in between the food, the family and the festivities many of us will take a moment to give thanks.

And while I will clearly be giving thanks for all the good things in my life, I will also be giving thanks for something bad, and that bad thing are my sins.

I am thankful because God sent Jesus making forgiveness of my sins possible.

Proverbs 28:13 urges us to take advantage of God’s opportunity of forgiveness.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Therefore this Thanksgiving I will add these blessings to the many things that I am grateful:

  1. Forgiveness is possible through confession

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

  1. There is no sin too great for God to forgive

Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!  Isaiah 1:18

  1. God has given us a way out of our sinful lives

God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness. Titus 2:11-14 (The Message)

It’s Thanksgiving and in between the cranberry, the football and the shopping this sinner is so thankful that God has sent Jesus so that my sins can be forgiven.

A Word To Remember

I marvel at the saints who can recite from memory verses of scripture.

While my daily bible reading, devotionals, seminary classes, bible studies and writings have given me a better command of the Word.  I still struggle when it comes to memorizing Bible verses.

And as I enter the world of seminary and preaching my worst fear is to be asked to recite a verse or two during an ordination examination or by a church member who is looking for inspiration.

Perhaps many of you share this same issue. A true desire to memorize the Word, along with a true inability to do so.

A Command To Remember

Memorizing Bible verses may seem like something kids do in Sunday school.   However, the act of memorizing the Word is something that God commands us to do.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Deuteronomy 11:18 (NIV)

Why God Wants Us Memorizing

God wants us to memorize His Word becoming so familiar with it that:

  • We can use the Word as a hedge against the evil that will come into our lives.
  • We can use the Word as encouragement when times are difficult.
  • We can use the Word as our guide to a prosperous life.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 NIV

How To Memorize The Word

As an adult over 50 confronted with the notion of memorizing Bible verses my thoughts were that “I was too old.”   Then somehow this old man recalled a verse that I had memorized in my youth Philippians 4:13(KJV)  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

“Strengtheneth” by the power of Christ, I started the task of memorizing verses.  With little success to show for my efforts I search for Bible memorization tips.  Listed below are a few of the tips I have found helpful as “I lay up the words of God in my heart and in my soul.”

  1. Start with prayer

While many elements are the same memorizing Bible verses is not like the memorization of secular information.

Therefore we should pray for God’s guidance for not only in the memorization of the verse but for the application and meaning of the Word of scripture in our lives.

  1. Start Small

Work on one verse at a time not multiple verses.

  1. Start With Meaning

Start by memorizing verses that have meaning for yourself and your life.  I started my road to memorization with:

Exodus 20:12: Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

1 Corinthians 6:18: Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.

 4. Find The Right Biblical Translation

Many fine and Godly scholars have translated the Bible into versions making the Word easier to read, understand and memorize.

I augment my several printed translations of the Bible with the website Bible Gateway a searchable reference tool for the desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone with all 66 books of the Bible in more than 70 languages and over 180 versions.

Using Bible Gateway I am always able to find the translation of the verse that speaks best to me and is easiest for me to memorize.

  1. Read, Write and Recite

-Read the verse over and over again for meaning and context.

Write the verse several times (five or ten times is a good start) Experts advise that physically writing the words of Scripture out is an extremely useful tactile memory aid.

Reciting the verse aloud is an excellent way to burn the Word of God into your memory.  During a commute I often turn off the car radio and recite verses.  I also record verses into the recoding apt of my smart phone for playback during a run or workout.

  1. Pray Some More

Incorporate elements of the verse you are trying to memorize into your prayers.  And again in your prayers ask for God’s help in fixing the verse in your heart and mind.

Final Thoughts

The Bible is of no good to us when it sits on a shelf or in a pew or even in our hands.  It is only of good to us when the Word of the Lord from its pages burns within our hearts.

If you are not in the habit of committing the Word to memory I hope this post will inspire you to start.

If memorizing the Word is a part of your faith tradition my hope is that this post reinforced what you are doing.

Either way I welcome your feedback and memorization tips.  Please send me an email: marben@marbenbland.com

 

A The Godly Solider

On this Veterans Day, as we pause to honor those who have served our nation in times of war and in moments of peace.

From the American Revolutionary War, to the Mexican–American War, to the World Wars, to our current wars in the Middle East; the men and women of the armed forces of the United States of America have served our nation with courage, commitment and consistency.

While the places may have changed, the centurions of the Bible are to be honored as well.  The position of soldier in biblical times, and today, remains a highly respected profession.

  • In Philippians 2:25, Paul describes Epaphroditus, a Christian, as a “fellow soldier.”
  • In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul uses military metaphors and tools to describe being strong in the Lord by putting on the whole armor of God.
  • In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus marveled over the faith of a Roman solider who sought healing for a solider under his command.

On this Veterans Day, let us not only pause to honor those who have and are currently serving.  Let us also spend this day in prayer for God’s grace and protection for America’s finest men and women.

 

Veterans Day 2015: Honor Them With A Job

As we take time this Veterans Day to recognize the service of our brave men and women, I must express my worries about the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.

After the attack on the Twin Towers, President George W. Bush declared: “America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

Ending The Draft

After nearly a decade and a half of wars fought on behalf of the Commander In Chief’s clear call to national danger, no American has been obligated to join in the fight and very few have volunteered to do so.

A 1973 Vietnam-era decision to depart from the tradition of the citizen-soldier by ending the draft and establish a large, professional, all-volunteer force has rendered our troops for many who have not served, into patriotic props at sporting events, television commercials and parades instead of employable citizens for the country when their service ends.

According to Department of Defense, less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces; compared to more than 12 percent during World War II. Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do.  And only a handful of their children are in uniform.

Employment For The 9/11 Veteran

I believe that veteran employment is a direct result of this growing divide between the military and the citizens that it serves.

Despite downward trends in unemployment across the country, veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have difficulty finding work, according to government jobs data.

Of the almost 2.8 million Americans who have served in uniform since 9/11, an estimated 200,000 are unemployed, according to government numbers sited in a USA Today article.

The Veteran Hiring Quiz

Don’t believe it?  Take this test around your place of work:

  • How many 9/11 era veterans are employed in your business?
  • All things equal, who would you rather hire for a critical positon? A candidate who has spent the last four years gaining the exact experience needed for your job opening OR a candidate who spent the same four years serving in Afghanistan?
  • Again how many 9/11 era veterans are employed in your business?

And that is the “Catch 22” veterans find themselves in.  As Tim Isacco, chief operating officer for Orion International, a large veteran recruitment firm, told the New York Times:  “Unfortunately, the ones doing most of the fighting have the highest unemployment rates.”

Help For Hiring A Veteran?

By no means am I suggesting that employers are deliberately NOT hiring veterans.  Also I am not saying that an unqualified veteran should be hired as a token of gratitude.

However, because of the special circumstances presented by veterans, we need to be creative in finding ways for businesses to hire them. The National Veterans Small Business Conference and the US Department of Veterans Affairs have teamed up on three programs that can assist your business with employing a veteran.

  1. On the Job Training Program for Skilled Labor
    An employer hires a qualified veteran at an apprentice wage and the VA will supplement the salary up to the journeyman wage.
  2. Special Employer Incentive Program
    An employer who places a veteran in an on-the-job training program can be reimbursed by the VA for up to 50 percent of the veteran’s salary for six months.
  3. Non-Paid Work Experience Program for Government Agencies
    Veterans can work as an apprentice in a local, state, or Federal government office. The placement does not count against the agency’s headcount and, in lieu of payment from the agency, veterans receive a monthly subsistence allowance from the VA.

For more information on these and other incentive programs go to VA.Gov for more information.

Final Thoughts

The political will along military technology advancements makes a return to    the draft a very remote possibility.

However, the challenge is still there for us to reconnect in a more significant way with our military.  On this day of remembrance for our Veterans, there can be no more noteworthy way to honor the service of our brave men and women than by bridging the gap with a good job.

Marben Bland is a US Army Veteran serving in Operation Desert Storm

Source material for the post came from:

Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart – Karl w. Eikenberry and David M. Kennedy – New York Times US Department of Veterans Affairs  

 

 

Standing On The Promises Of God

The world we live in can be a difficult place.  Just look some of the headlines from this week:

Dateline Egypt: 224 Killed In Russian Plane Crash

Dateline Austin: State Judge Shot and Wounded

Dateline: Chicago: 9 Year Old Lured Into An Alley And Killed

Regardless of how the dark the days may get, we can always stand of the promises of God for the comfort, strength and guidance we need to not only survive but to excel.

Let’s examine some of the promises of God:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10

While God’s promises are powerful and unfazed by the crazy things we do here on Earth.  We will experience the full force of His promises when we demonstrate our faith and trust in God.

In solemn truth I tell you, anyone believing in me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask him for anything, using my name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. John 14:12-13

The simple truth is this:  The more trust and faith we have in God the more God is able to meet needs in our lives.

And with that increased faith and trust we are better able to stand on the promises of God and capture all of His blessings.

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.  You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:

  • Your towns and your fields will be blessed.
  • Your children and your crops will be blessed.
  • The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.
  • Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed.
  • Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.

Deuteronomy 28 New Living Translation

Yes the world we live in can be a difficult place but with our faith and trust firmly on the Lord. We can stand on the promises of God, ready to meet anything that the world will bring. Because: “we are we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”   Romans 8:37